Whilst the Timberwolves continue to persevere with the growing pains exhibited by Johnny Flynn, fans can only wonder how the season might have progressed if one Ricardo Rubio had come to the Twin Cities rather the signing a deal with Regal Barcelona.
My view to date is that I would love to see him in a Wolves uniform and playing in a backcourt with Flynn, pushing Brewer out to the 3 and Love and Big Al in the front court (assuming Al is our best option at the 5…but more of that another time).
If you look at his Euro stats alone, you might not consider Rubio a great option. In 10 games he is averaging only 6.4 points, 5.6 assists, 3.2 boards, 1.5 steals and 1.9 turnovers in about 20 minutes a game. But you need to remember they play 40 minute games in Europe, not 48, and that it is more common to spread the minutes around, so the stats will be down a little because of that. However, when you move away from the stats, you can see the quality of the guy, and he’s only 19! Watching footage of his play, the thing that strikes most is his court vision and handle. Whilst he rarely scores, he is great at driving into the paint and dishing to a team mate to score or pick up a foul. His no-look passes are truly awesome, and a recent dribble between an opponent’s leg before recovering the ball and passing was fantastic.
He is made in the mould of a traditional pass first point guard. In UEFA Europa league he has not made more than one two point shot in any of his 10 games, shooting a poor 38%, although he did shoot three of four three pointers in one game, and averaging 40% overall for the season. However he is shooting greater than 90% from the stripe and in 10 games and amazingly has made more free throws than he has field goals. His assists are not huge, but when you increase his minutes to better match what he would play in the NBA, then he could be expected to average closer to 8 to 9 dimes a game.
The challenge would be to fit Rubio into the Triangle offence used in basketball. Current evidence does not show Ricky to be a strong shooter, so pairing with Flynn in a backcourt would place a greater emphasis on Flynn’s shooting. Flynn is currently shooting around 43% at the moment and averaging 14.5 points per game. He would need to improve his accuracy and his average should he be pushed into the off guard role.
The advantage though is that Rubio has the skills to move the ball efficiently around the team, identifying those with an opportunity to score or better promote the ball. Plus, given Flynn’s credentials as a point guard, he would further support the rapid ball movement required under the triangle scheme, Indeed it would take the pressure off Flynn to run the point and allow him to focus on scoring the ball. The unknown then would be the ability of Brewer to switch to the small forward position. He clearly has the skill to be the lock down defender of the team, but that won’t be enough if his development as a shooter plateaus. If Brewer can continue to grow as a shooter, then the wolves have some potential in their new back court.
The million dollar question for the Wolves then is, to trade or not to trade…do the wolves wait the two years and then try to bring him to the NBA, or do they look to trade his reputation to pick up another key piece (this is further complicated by the fact that the Wolves could win the lottery and have a shot at John Wall). Rumors abound for potential Wolves trades, with ESPN again raising the spectre of a potential trade for Amare, but this time with the twist of Rubio to be included as the perfect replacement for Nash. The Knicks would kill for Rubio, to replace the below average Duhon, and any number of other teams could surely fit Rubio into their lineup.
The Wolves are rebuilding. A new coach, a new playing scheme, a new point guard, another overseas, and more draft picks in the wings (and the potential for a very high pick). Rubio offers a different option, but requires some patience (and I understand that patience sucks). He is a valuable piece that I believe would offer an upgrade at the point position, but time changes so many things. How will Flynn be playing by then? Who will the Wolves have picked up in the draft? Will big Al still be in a Wolves uniform? Will we have Amare, or another star free agent? These things will influence what the Wolves will do with Rubio. But one thing is for certain. Rubio has the ability to make it in the NBA…can the Wolves make him work for them!